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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – September 15, 2010

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TODAY: Surprise checks on human rights groups prior to regional elections; Microsoft to hand out free software to NGOs; United Russia meeting offers wholesale support to Luzhkov.  Russian Defense Sec in Washington as START ratification pressure mounts; Kremlin seeking to cement foothold in Kyrgyzstan with arms-for-bases deal; Belarus election date set – what part will chilly relations with Russia play?

A handful of prominent human rights groups have complained of impromptu detailed checks of their paperwork by the authorities in advance of the October elections.  Authorities claim this is to check how recent legislation on NGOs has affected their workings; activists disagree.  It should be harder now for authorities to use piracy as a pretext for searches: Microsoft will be handing out their programs free to NGOs after allegations of collusion again dissenters; labelled a ‘shocking failure of corporate responsibility’ in this NY Times editorial.  Russia’s opposition parties are apparently creating a coalition for the 2011 parliamentary elections and want to nominate a single candidate for the 2012 presidential elections from among its leading figures.  The defamation case brought against human rights activist Oleg Orlov by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov over responsibility for the murder of Natalya Estemirova has begun hearings in Moscow.  A new watchdog group, For Transparency of Justice, established by a respected human rights activist and two lawyers, plans to put a spotlight on the way Russia’s courts operate.


A Moscow United Russia meeting has voted unanimously to support beleaguered Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who branded the TV shows which blackened his name ‘dirt’ in an interview with Ren TV on Monday night.  On accusations of nepotism regarding his wife Yelena Baturina, Russia’s richest woman, the mayor claimed, ‘she would have been even richer if she was not married to the mayor of Moscow’.  Arkady Dvorkovich has penned an article in the Huffington Post detailing the progress he claims has been made in the year since President Medvedev’s modernization-pushing ‘Go Russia’ speech.

The Moscow Times reports that Senator Richard Lugar has presented a plan to help assuage Republican doubts over the new START treaty, whose ratification requires at least 8 Republican votes to jump its last hurdle; he can count this republican among his backers.  For the first time in six years a Russian Defense Minister will visit the Pentagon: today Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates will host Kremlin counterpart, Anatoly E. Serdyukov.  The New York Times establishes some parallels between the two reforming enthusiasts. 

Kyrgyzstan and Russia are apparently negotiating a deal in which Russia would offer its central Asian neighbor arms in exchange for prolonging its use of Kyrgyz territory for military installations for another 49 years.  The Telegraph sees the deal as a Russian play for power in the strategically-positioned nation, which is also being wooed by the US and China.  How will the rift between Alexander Lukashenko and the Kremlin affect the former’s prospects in Belarus’ presidential elections, set for December 19? wonders the Moscow Times.  Set for four months earlier than when the strongman’s third term is due to expire, RFE/RL considers the President’s motives: an attempt to stymie the movement of rival candidates or to preempt a backlash against higher energy prices coming into effect in January?  Meanwhile the President has heartily affirmed solidarity with Russia.

‘In the near future, we will see whether the Internet destroys Putin or whether Putin destroys the Internet‘: Yulia Latynina lauds web-power in a nation of state-controlled TV.

PHOTO: A store clerk holding a copy of Microsoft’s Windows Vista operating system. (Denis Grishkin / Vedomosti)